Good cultured butter is made with time and patience.
Careful consideration needs to be given to the cream – where it comes from, how fresh it is, the breed it has come from; Friesian or Jersey cow and the subsequent fat content.
In addition, the length of time you culture the cream is critical as is the strain of cultures that achieve the desired flavour profile. Hopefully as I explain the process you will be enriched with the complex and flavoursome offering that results when all these components are perfect. I personally eat a small amount of butter, however, a great cultured butter I can eat like cheese!
Butter is made by simply churning cream until it clots and releases buttermilk. There are two main types of butter: sweet cream butter and cultured butter. Sweet cream butter is churned cream, and is reliant on the quality of the cream, best made when the cream is only hours old. Cultured butter is more complex, textured and flavoursome, quite the superior version.
While cultured butter is familiar to Europeans who have been using it for centuries, it is a relatively new phenomenon here in our young country. A handful of cultured butter makers have emerged in Australia. Each offering a slightly different version of the golden delicacy. My experience with butter making is relatively new, however the trial and error processes I undergo are both exciting and rewarding. We take cream from a local dairy, which is naturally rich and thick without whipping.
The cream is inoculated with a selection of cultures and set aside for several days in a controlled environment to develop and ripen. The number of days allowed for this resting period is critical to the flavour profile and needs to researched and understood by the maker. Too long – too cheesy, not long enough and you will create an insipid tasting butter. Once the ripening period is complete the cream is ready to churn, a critical step in establishing the correct texture of the butter.
The churning therefore must be monitored very carefully and over churning will result in a disaster – not unlike margarine! It is at this point that the butter cries buttermilk. We collect this and divide it amongst the cheese makers to take home and make delicious pancakes. The buttermilk is rich, sweet and thick and produces the fluffiest pancakes or pikelets. It’s satisfying knowing that nothing is wasted from the make.
In true artisan fashion once the buttermilk is taken off we then force any remaining buttermilk from the butter by hand. We then wash the butter gently and carefully with filtered water. Failure to remove the buttermilk entirely will cause the butter to spoil quickly and develop rancid notes. A small amount of South Australian Murray River pink salt flakes are folded through before shaping the butter into small cubes ready for chilling and sale.
What is so appealing to me is there is nothing but natural ingredients in a butter made like this – free of preservatives, stabilisers, gums and colouring and a flavour that will impress. A few brave chefs around Adelaide have taken on some of my variations of cultured butter. Tom Reid from the newly revived Maximillians restaurant has taken a great liking to my blue vein cultured butter.
When I first showed Tom the product I had to warn him as I slowly opened the silver paper the butter was wrapped in. The butter is completely covered in blue mould and looks like a piece of butter gone wrong. However, when you put it in your mouth it comes alive with flavour! Tom serves it with his house made sourdough, but explains to me I have to take it out to the customers and introduce it.
Such a pleasure working with chefs that get new and innovative food. Tom also serves the blue vein butter with his dry aged porterhouse steak. We also have a truffle butter, whiskey washed butter and an unsalted version for cooking. If you haven’t had the opportunity to try cultured butter I highly recommend you do.
Pepe Saya, Myrtleford Butter Factory and Bangalow Cheese Company all produce good Australian cultured butters. Served with fresh crusty warm bread is simply one of the best ways to show off good quality cultured butter.
My favourite is fresh mushrooms lightly pan-fried with our truffle butter, a perfect match for a good steak!
Kris Lloyd is Woodside’s Head Cheesemaker